National Waterway (NW)-2 on the River Brahmaputra from Sadiya to the Bangladesh Border near Dhubri is the most important Inland Waterway in the North Eastern Region (NER). This 891 km stretch was declared a National Waterway in 1988. Nearly 1687 km along the tributaries of the Brahmaputra and Barak river on this route have been identified as having the potential for the development of feeder waterways. In fact, NW-2 provides alternate connectivity to the NER through 1700 km of the Indo-Bangladesh Protocol routes. The development and maintenance of fairway, terminals, and navigation aids on NW-2 in 2014-15 were done as described below: –
Fairway development: A navigable fairway of minimum 45 m width and 2.5 m least available depth (LAD) was maintained along the Dhubri-Pandu stretch. LAD of 2.5 m was maintained for about 335 days while LAD of 2m was maintained for another 30 days along the Pandu-Neamati stretch. In the Neamati-Dibrugarh stretch, 2 m LAD was maintained for 365 days and along the Dibrugarh-Sadiya (Oriumghat) stretch, LAD of 1.5 m was maintained for 335 days and for the remaining period (30 days), LAD of 2 m was maintained.
To maintain this LAD, 21,900 m of bandals were erected at 44 locations. Besides this, 94,544 cu m of dredging was also done in 17 locations using two cutter suction dredger (CSD), which uses a rotating cutter head to loosen the material in the bed-CSD Mandovi and CSD Brahmani.
Terminals: As the most important location on NW-2, Pandu is being developed as a river port in keeping with a master plan. A low level jetty has been operational since 2009 and a high level jetty has been developed at a cost of INR 43.85 crore for year-round operations.
A broad gauge railway siding connecting Pandu port to Kamakhya railway station in Guwahati has been constructed through the Northern Frontier Railways at a cost of INR 12.97 crore with commercial operations in place since 2013.
Two roll on- roll off (RO-RO) terminals, one at Dhubri and another at Hatsingimari (on the opposite bank of the Brahmaputra at Dhubri) were planned by IWAI in 2013 to provide 29 km direct inland water transport connectivity to Meghalaya from Dhubri, avoiding a circuitous 220 km road route through Jogighopa at INR 47 crore and 35 crore, respectively. Work on the Dhubri terminal is in progress. At Hatsingimari, however, almost entire land earmarked for construction of terminal has been eroded by mighty Brahmaputra and it is not possible to construct the permanent structure in present conditions. Temporary RO-RO services developed jointly between IWAI and the Inland Waterways Directorate, Government of Assam, are likely to be commissioned by February, 2016 along this stretch. Floating terminals for facilitating cargo movement have also been provided and maintained at Dhubri, Jogighopa, Tejpur, Silghat, Vishwanathghat, Neamati, Bogibeel, Dibrugarh, Sengajan/Panbari and Oriumghat. Land has been acquired for setting up of terminals at Hatsingimari, Dhubri, Silghat, Vishwanathghat, Neamati, Dibrugarh and Oriumghattoo.
Navigation Aids: Channel marking for day navigation was provided and maintained for the waterway. Night navigation aids were also provided between Dhubri and Silghat; fortnightly/ monthly surveys were carried out along the entire waterway and fairway-related information was provided to inland water transport operators. State-of-the-art Digital Global Positioning System (DGPS) stations were also commissioned at Dhubri, Jogighopa, Silghat and Dibrugarh to facilitate DGPS connectivity for NW-2.
River Tourism: The presence of wild life sanctuaries at Kaziranga and Orang and tourist attractions like Sualkuchi, Sivasagar and Kamalabari along the Brahmaputra attracted substantial river tourism on NW-2, especially following provision of a 2.5 m LAD in the Pandu-Neamati stretch. Three tourist vessels are regularly making voyages between Pandu and Neamati with foreign tourists every year, with tour operators elated with the facilities along the stretch.
NW-2 and its development has been one of the most successful projects undertaken by the IWAI, given its importance in north-eastern India. The development of the Pandu-Neamati stretch, in tandem with the North-eastern Frontier Railways, has given a fillip to tour operators and boosted the tourism economy to the benefit of locals.
Inputs from: Inland Waterways Authority of India, Ministry of Shipping, Government of India.